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Across a Great Divide

Edited by Laura L. Scheiber, Mark D. Mitchell, and K. G. Tregonning

Publication Year: 2010

Archaeological research is uniquely positioned to show how native history and native culture affected the course of colonial interaction, but to do so it must transcend colonialist ideas about Native American technological and social change. This book applies that insight to five hundred years of native history. Using data from a wide variety of geographical, temporal, and cultural settings, the contributors examine economic, social, and political stability and transformation in indigenous societies before and after the advent of Europeans and document the diversity of native colonial experiences. The book’s case studies range widely, from sixteenth-century Florida, to the Great Plains, to nineteenth-century coastal Alaska.

The contributors address a series of interlocking themes. Several consider the role of indigenous agency in the processes of colonial interaction, paying particular attention to gender and status. Others examine the ways long-standing native political economies affected, and were in turn affected by, colonial interaction. A third group explores colonial-period ethnogenesis, emphasizing the emergence of new native social identities and relations after 1500. The book also highlights tensions between the detailed study of local cases and the search for global processes, a recurrent theme in postcolonial research.

If archaeologists are to bridge the artificial divide separating history from prehistory, they must overturn a whole range of colonial ideas about American Indians and their history. This book shows that empirical archaeological research can help replace long-standing models of indigenous culture change rooted in colonialist narratives with more nuanced, multilinear models of change—and play a major role in decolonizing knowledge about native peoples.

Published by: University of Arizona Press


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-ix

This book addresses colonial interactions in North America from the fifteenth century through the nineteenth century. The emphasis throughout the book is on interactions as opposed to one-way colonial effects. Historians and archaeologists often emphasize the impacts that colonizers have on the indigenous societies with which they collide. ...

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1. Crossing Divides: Archaeology as Long-Term History

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pp. 1-22

Few cultural and political events have stimulated as much debate among social scientists as the Columbian Quincentennial. For archaeologists especially, the 1992 commemoration of Columbus’s landfall in the New World provoked a wide-ranging and critical debate. At first, the discussion was largely reflexive and focused on the political context of...

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2. Agency and Practice in Apalachee Province

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pp. 23-41

In the spring of the year 1528, the Spanish conquistador P

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3. Long-Term History, Positionality, Contingency, Hybridity: Does Rethinking Indigenous History Reframe the Jamestown Colony?

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pp. 42-60

This chapter is concerned with the writing, and centering, of the long-term indigenous history of the Powhatan (Algonquian) and Monacan (Siouan) Indians of the Middle Atlantic/Chesapeake Bay region of North America (see fig. 3.1). The particular purpose of this chapter is to better understand long-term indigenous history in the Chesapeake region so as ...

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4. When Moral Economies and Capitalism Meet: Creek Factionalism and the Colonial Southeastern Frontier

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pp. 61-78

In the late summer and fall of 1811, the Shawnee leader Tecumseh brought the twin messages of a pan-Indian alliance with the British and the radical rejection of European goods and cultural practices to the Indians of the Southeast. Based on the teachings of his brother Tenskawatawa, the Shawnee Prophet, Tecumseh implored the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, ...

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5. Not Just “One Site Against the World”: Seneca Iroquois Intercommunity Connections and Autonomy, 1550–1779

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pp. 79-106

Archaeologists studying American Indian peoples impacted by the post-1500 European expansion have been slow to acknowledge that in many situations, the political-economic power of Indian groups was equal to or even greater than that of European colonizers. Although such settings can be readily recognized in both the historical and ...

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6. A Prophet Has Arisen: The Archaeology of Nativism among the Nineteenth-Century Algonquin Peoples of Illinois

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pp. 107-127

In the introduction to this volume, Mitchell and Scheiber note that colonial discourse or the historical construction by Europeans of culturally biased narratives regarding non-Western peoples served to justify the social domination and material exploitation of colonized peoples. Such discourse was not simply a reflection of the dominant relationship of Europeans to such individuals and groups, but a...

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7. Mountain Shoshone Technological Transitions across the Great Divide

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pp. 128-148

Rapid replacement of indigenous material culture by European manufactured items is a long-held assumption about culture change in colonial contexts (Diamond 1997; Rodr

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8. The Plains Hide Trade: French Impact on Wichita Technology and Society

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pp. 149-173

Archaeologists and ethnographers of the Great Plains commonly assume that European trade initiated fundamental organizational changes in native peoples’ traditional kin relations, divisions of labor, resource distribution, social equality, and so forth (Bonvillain 2001:192; Wood 1998:7–8). Yet seldom do scholars specify the timing and process of ...

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9. “Like Butterflies on a Mounting Board”: Pueblo Mobility and Demography before 1825

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pp. 174-191

Only recently have precedent and contingency emerged as concepts useful for understanding the historical experiences of ancestral and modern Pueblo1 peoples. For scholars of the era prior to the arrival of Europeans, there is now a recognition that historical experience and the field of choices it offered to Pueblo decision makers is perhaps more ...

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10. The Diné at the Edge of History: Navajo Ethnogenesis in the Northern Southwest, 1500–1750

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pp. 192-211

As archaeologists, how do we trace the changes and continuities in an emerging group identity over two-and-a-half centuries (1500–1750)? The challenge is that group identity, or ethnicity, is a moving category of us or them, with cultural boundaries, identities, and content in constant flux and open to renegotiation ...

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11. A Cross-Cultural Study of Colonialism and Indigenous Foodways in Western North America

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pp. 212-238

In the milieu of everyday household and community life, food practices are highly visible and pervasive reminders of individual and collective identity, ideology, and social status. Food is acquired, prepared, shared, and consumed multiple times every day, and food is often at the center of social interaction and cultural expression. Thus, it is perhaps no...

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12. Identity Collectives and Religious Colonialism in Coastal Western Alaska

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pp. 239-257

Colonialism was a stimulus to changed culture in native North America. No longer are descendent people portrayed as caught in an acculturative net but rather as constituents in the processes of change, mitigation, and resistance. As Sahlins states, colonial transformation is “externally induced yet indigenously orchestrated” (1985:viii). Agents of colonial ...

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13. Crossing, Bridging, and Transgressing Divides in the Study of Native North America

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pp. 258-276

The question of history looms large in this volume. How do we write indigenous histories alongside or entangled with colonist histories? At what scale do we write those histories? With what terms do we narrate such histories, and who gets to narrate them? How can these histories cross disciplinary and temporal boundaries? What role does and should ...

References Cited

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pp. 277-328

About the Contributors

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pp. 329-336


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pp. 337-342

E-ISBN-13: 9780816502288
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816528714

Page Count: 103
Publication Year: 2010